Butterick's Practical Typography

Matthew Butterick has unveiled his new web book, Practical Typography:

This is a bold claim, but I stand be­hind it: if you learn and fol­low these five ty­pog­ra­phy rules, you will be a bet­ter ty­pog­ra­ph­er than 95% of pro­fes­sion­al writ­ers and 70% of pro­fes­sion­al de­sign­ers. (The rest of this book will raise you to the 99th per­centile in both categories.)

All it takes is ten min­utes—five min­utes to read these rules once, then five min­utes to read them again.

It's an astounding piece of work: a comprehensive, no-nonsense, gorgeous handbook for anyone interested in typography. I took my first peek at it the other night and didn't go to sleep for about two hours.

The book is free to read and thus relies solely on reader support, of which there are many options.

Favorite Apps: Clear for iPhone

If you've been on the Internet this week, you've more than likely heard the buzz surrounding Clear, the new to-do list app from Realmac Software. I'd been looking forward to Clear ever since seeing the video, and the app saw its much anticipated release late Tuesday night.

It's wondrous.

Clear is, quite simply, an app for making lists. But oh, never before has making lists been so much fun.

Most iOS apps operate from left to right. That is, when you tap something, you feel like you're moving to the right to go to the next screen. The more you tap, the "deeper" or further to the right you go. Tweetbot is a good example of this concept.

Clear takes the opposite approach, featuring a vertical structure comprised of three levels. The topmost level is the Menu, where you can access your lists, themes, and settings. The middle level is your Lists, and the bottom level consists of your List's Items. It's kind of like Inception.

Navigating the app is done entirely using gestures. There are no traditional buttons like "Back", "Next", or "Done". The app is completely fullscreen; even the menu bar is hidden. Your iPhone becomes the Clear app, and it's lovely.

Swiping down creates a new list in List view or a new item in Item view. Pull down a little further to move up a level. Tap and hold on a list or item to move it up or down. Swiping to the right completes items, swiping to the left deletes them. Swiping up moves you down a level or clears all completed items when in Item view. You can also use two fingers to "stretch" and create a new list or item, and pinch to move up a level. There are other gestures and tricks, but they're best experienced by using the app.

The whole app feels very fast. Navigating is smooth and crisp, and it's easy to enter many items into a list. I populated a list of over thirty items in a couple of minutes. You're really only limited by how fast your thumbs can type. The interface and gestures are Clear's standout features; it's really a joy to use.

Despite being a simple app, Clear still has a ton of personality. This is achieved primarily through color and sound.

Clear comes with five different themes, and list items are arranged using color to indicate priority. "Heat Map" is the app's default theme. Your most important items are at the top in a strong, vibrant red, while items in the middle gradually fade to orange, and then to yellow towards the bottom. It's very pretty.

In a brilliant move, Clear has also included several bonus themes, which can be unlocked by... doing things I cannot reveal. It's the funnest to-do list app around.

Sound is also a huge part of Clear. The sound effects are wonderfully musical and add a great dimension to the app. You can turn the sounds off and/or use vibration instead, but it's much better with them on.

Whether or not you're a list aficionado, it's worth checking out Clear just for the revolutionary interface. It's beautifully designed in every way, and it's a great example of what iOS is capable of.

It only took a few minutes for Clear to earn a spot on my home screen. It's simple, fun, innovative, and useful. Clear is a sensory productivity experience; it's an app that appeals to your fingers, eyes, and ears while helping you get things done.

You can buy Clear for $0.99 on the App Store.

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Why Simple Is Good

A quote from Jonathan Ive, found in Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs:

Why do we assume that simple is good? Because with physical products, we have to feel we can dominate them. As you bring order to complexity, you find a way to make the product defer to you. Simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. For example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex. The better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything about it and how it’s manufactured. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.

Seth Godin on Typography

Seth Godin:

The choice of a typeface, the care given to kerning and to readability—it all sends a powerful signal. When your business card is nothing but Arial on a piece of cardboard, you’ve just told people how they ought to think about you… precisely the opposite of what you were trying to do when you made the card in the first place.

I love typography. I don’t know if I’m any good at it, but I do think about it regularly, and I’m learning little by little.

At the very least, I promise you’ll never see Arial on this website.